The following essay argues that the verse epitaphs of late ancient Rome offer unique perspectives on the social, religious, and intellectual milieu of Christianity in the late antique city. The allusive strategies and poetic metaphors of many of these texts index the otherwise largely undocumented social aspirations and religious ideals of middling segments of Roman society. More particularly, fourth- and fifth-century gender parity in funerary commemoration coupled with the disproportionate representation of young women in verse epitaphs reflects not only the nuclear family's emergence as society's paramount affective unit but also the premium placed by non-elite as well as elite families on the public display of filial and uxorial pudicitia and castitas. Although the representational strategies of male householders foregrounded traditional themes of female sexual modesty, nevertheless the jeu d'esprit and unguarded idiosyncrasies of these texts subtly project the subjectivity and social agency of commemorands as well as commemorators.


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pp. 1-25
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